The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s spoken out about it. He’s been echoed by business leaders from major retailers, airports, banks and media companies. Day by day the chorus of calls encouraging us back into the office gets louder. We are told that returning to our desks unlocks the door to building trusted relationships with senior leaders to developing our career prospects and to being considered for future pay rises and promotions.
Yet progress is slow. According to Google Mobility data, the number of Brits back working in their office buildings is currently 40 per cent lower than pre-COVID times. Many of us it seems, remain reluctant to commute back to our old city centre desks.
The pandemic has pushed a giant reset button. Cast your mind back to February 2020 and for most of us, the prospect of working from home even one day a week on a regular basis felt unusual, if not indulgent. But no more. Now we want to work from home full time or part-time. According to the Office of National Statistics, 85 per cent of working adults in the UK now want to use a hybrid approach of both home and office working in the future.
In my role as Director of Training at H+K London, I speak to business leaders on a daily basis – and the truth is, many of them feel conflicted. Conflicted because they know their staff remain highly concerned about Covid-19, yet they are also aware that bringing people together (in Covid-secure spaces) builds and protects the culture of a company. Conflicted because they know that there is a new mood playing among many workers, who feel the pandemic has opened up a better and more flexible culture of home working, yet equally conscious that in-person collaboration drives great teamwork, creativity and innovation.
With this in mind, many employers are now encouraging hybrid working styles and are emphasising the social and cultural benefits of returning to the office more regularly to their staff. It makes sense because there is no denying that seeing your colleagues in the flesh is uplifting and that being able to chat over a desk is a brilliant way to build trusted relationships.
But I think there is another discussion that we should be having when it comes to returning to work, and that’s about how important it can be for learning. If office spaces of the future continue to focus heavily on the social and collaborative aspects of work, I believe they should also upweight their focus on staff training and professional growth too.
Showing your teams that you are investing in them through fresh, regular and relevant development programmes and training modules is, I believe, going to be key to getting them back into the building. Whether it is through skills training, knowledge building or leadership coaching, we know that when employees feel invested in, they are more loyal and engaged. In fact, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94 per cent of employees said that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them to do just one thing: to learn.
At H+K London, we’ve been responding to this. We are rapidly expanding our training offer, both internally and externally, so that in addition to our well-established media, crisis and presentation training programmes, we are also targeting new areas where employees are seeking support. This includes empowering more women to communicate more confidently in public, helping people to network and expand their network in a post-pandemic world, and inspiring people to be able to handle challenging conversations and change carefully and confidently.
Learning is one of life’s biggest motivators. So instead of using fear to scare people about how not returning to work might mean missing out on future promotions and pay rises, how’s about switching to a different and more encouraging tune: come back to the office more and regularly and we’ll commit to investing in regular training and coaching that supports you to be the best you can be.
If you’re interested to find out more about the training courses that we offer email trainingUK@hkstrategies.com